Preparing for Medical School is much closer to an ultra-marathon than a sprint. You will have to dedicate yourself for all of your Undergraduate studies to make sure you are as competitive as possible when it comes time for your applications. You need to keep focused but there is a fine line between dedicating your free-time to extracurricular activities and overwhelming yourself to the point of a breakdown. In this article, I will present the Top 5 Tips to Avoid Burning Out as a Pre-Med to help you plan your efforts accordingly to reach a Medical School in a few short years.
Number 1: Time-Management is Key
The best way to not burn out is to make sure you have a strategic plan going into your Undergraduate program. It is not unrealistic to assume that you need to have some type of acclimation period to learn the ropes of University. There will be a large number of opportunities that you may have never expected to consider but the point is to make sure you won't waste too much time during this window. You should find a research opportunity during Freshman Year and start to find places to volunteer in. It is a good idea to stagger your schedule so your first semester will not be too daunting so use this time to get involved in other facets of your application. You will be able to find a balance between school and extracurricular activities much quicker so you can do your best in each component.
Number 2: Seek Help Often
A semester will fly by quicker than you may think so it is essential that you are seeking out guidance whenever you have an opportunity. Classes may be difficult and you do not have the leverage to delay. A low grade can push you into a deep hole that will be difficult to climb out of so utilize the Teaching Assistants and Professors during office hours to improve your understanding of the material.
If you want to get accepted into a US medical program make it a habit to get to know the professors and the TAs, you will face less pressure about needing to score exceptionally well on every test in order to score highly. That can make it much more pleasant for you as you move from year to year because you will be studying more effectively. This is a good strategy to get used to now because in Medical School, it is essential that you seek the help of doctors and colleagues to help explain a concept so you can grasp it. The pace is so fast that if you delay, you can find yourself spiraling downward with all the material that you need to focus on. It is not a time to be shy or prideful. It is impossible for someone to know everything so you need to seek help whenever possible to not waste your time. You will feel more relaxed because you can understand a concept faster and you will not burn out.
As an added bonus, if you develop a good rapport with these professors and TAs, it will be much easier for you to approach them when it comes time to ask for Letters of Recommendation so you are not scrambling during the process. If you visited them everyday, they will surely be willing to help you with a letter with is a giant weight off of your shoulders during the application period.
Three More Tips to Avoid Burning Out as a Pre-Med
Number 3: Enjoy Your Time in Undergrad
Even if you need to have a competitive application when applying to Medical School, an Admissions' Board is realistic that you are not a robot and have to power down for a little to keep going. You need to meet with your friends, find time to exercise, and do any other hobby that can help you unwind. You are not expected to use all your free-time to dedicate yourself to research and volunteering. The key thing to remember though is to find balance between your social and academic life. You will not be able to afford to take 2 weeks off every month to recover from hangovers, unfortunately. By choosing a career in Medicine, you are agreeing to forfeit a lot of the social life you may enjoy doing but that is the price of admission for this profession. As painful as it is for me to say it, you need to start weaning yourself off of this facet of your life as you move through University because you will not have the luxury of all this fun in Medical School, trust me.
Number 4: Meet with a Pre-Med Adviser
This is something that you need to do as soon as possible when starting your track as a Pre-Med. There are a lot of different rumors circulating around among your friends and family that can add to the stress that you may face as a Pre-Med. The best way to manage that and to not burn-out is to hear the message directly from the "horse's mouth" and make sure you know what you are expected to do. A sit-down with the medical school adviser can help you answer any questions or concerns you may have and will help you focus on what you need to do to achieve your goals. Most Pre-Med advisers are skilled in what they do so they will explain ways for you to alter your life now to help yourself reap the benefits of a strong application.
Number 5: Be Realistic With Yourself
The best way to avoid burning out is for you to relax and change your ideology if you are stressing about scoring highly on all exams. The more pressure you put on yourself, the more likely it is that you will fall flat in your efforts. You cannot expect to score a 100% on every exam that you take and it is a negative way to approach your studies. You should not focus on scoring a specific score on an exam but rather to focus on mastering the information. If you are confident in your preparation, you develop a great habit that will set yourself up for success during your MCAT preparation so you can adjust to a more demanding schedule.
If you are fixated on your marks, one "B" in a subject could curtail all your future efforts and potentially lead you directly into a panic attack. A poor grade can be overcome so do not put too much emphasis on this and move on. A Medical School appreciates a student who is able to rebound from adversity so you can use this to your advantage.